The Vanuatu Chefs and Food Handlers Association is whipping and beating into shape the premier culinary event of the year, to be held in Port Vila from October 20th to 24th. Now in its 10th year, the Origin Culinary Arts and Hospitality Show is shaping up to be the hottest and toughest culinary competition yet. Participants will compete against each other in live open cooking competitions, beautiful cake displays, an international chef’s pressure test canapé event, the hotly contested Barista Championship, the Cocktail Maker of the Year event and the fast paced Housekeeper of the Year event.
The Association continues to develop its successful strategy by showcasing the skills, talent and creativity of local chefs with 2013 being the first time that a Gold with Distinction medal (100 points) was awarded, an incredible achievement for chef Lina Singo with her Island Kaekae inspired dish. In response to industry demand, last year the association also developed additional classes within the competition, with the Australia Pacific technical College (APTC) and Hospitality, Tourism and Leisure Training Centre (HTLTC) students competing in a dedicated event to open the show. The full day of competition showcased some fantastic skills with two students being recognised for their fabulous, tasty dishes and named Student of the Year. In adition to its annual Culinary and Hospitality show, Vanuatu has twice hosted the Pacific Oz-tralasia Cup and the Pacific Rim Challenge, an exciting and extraordinary event where chefs from Australia, Fiji, Guam, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu design and cook exceptional food in a bid to be the best in the Pacific.
From its humble beginnings, the Association has stayed true to its objective, to encourage and upskill NiVanuatu chefs to improve the quality of food and service across the industry. In its early days, the Vanuatu Chefs Association as it was known, raised awareness of the industry through weekly newspapers columns and its own dedicated Chefs Kae Kae Kona page. The ‘Market Report’ was published weekly highlighting the produce available in the Port Vila market, together with recipes using local ingredients and local chefs’ profiles. These were the beginings of the association and its commitment to raising awareness of the industry under the direction of Clayton Hachey in 2005, and Grant Johnston, the asociation president from 2005 to 2010.
Under the direction of Sarah Kymbrekos, current president and chef extraordinaire, the association continues to build on its previous success, adding new classes and incorporating a mixture of fun and competitive events to the annual Culinary Arts and Hospitality Show. “This year, we are very excited to have our international guest chefs compete in a canapé event using local ingredients. This is a fast-paced event where reputation and pride are on the line!” she said. “The invited international chefs and judges donate their time to assist cementing this week-long event as the best show in the Pacific and we are always very grateful for their support,” Sarah explained.
The highlight of the event is the announcement of the National Team, a selection of six ni-Vanuatu chefs who will represent Vanuatu at international competitions, and the announcement of the Senior and Junior Chef of the Year. In 2007, the first National Team travelled to Fiji and came back with a respectable haul of two silver medals and three bronze medals. More recently, the team has travelled to New Zealand, winning two bronze medals in 2013; a significant achievement considering the high level of skill required in international competitions. To help with their travel expenses, every year around Easter, the National Team delights palates across Vanuatu with their annual fundraising degustation dinner; this a gourmet dining experience and a very popular social event, with tickets always selling out fast. Respected chefs from Australia, who take pride in mentoring the skills of our local chefs, have assisted the team to create an extraordinary degustation dinner for the past two years. “It is a privilege to be selected to represent your country, and the National Team work hard to increase their knowledge and cooking skills so that they can represent Vanuatu with pride,” explains David Holliday, chef of Air Vanuatu Catering. Going from strength to strength, a number of the National Team members also recentely featured in the popular television series Real Pasifik alongside international chef, author and TV presenter Robert Oliver.
This year, the association again aims to run an extraordinary event for the hospitality and tourism industry that will ignite passion and pride in the industry and the people who excel in their creativity and talents. Entry to the event is free and everyone is welcome to come and watch the exciting and healthy competition amongst the best chefs and hospitality people in the country. The Origin Culinary Arts and Hospitality Show will take place in the marquees located on the beach next to Chantillys on the Bay, Lini Highway. Bon appetit!
Story By Mereana Mills. Photos courtesy of the Vanuatu Chefs Association.